A language society is taking Paramount Pictures to court to make sure the Klingon language can’t be copyrighted.
Per the Hollywood Reporter, Paramount initially copyrighted multiple items including the Klingon language after a lawsuit over a Star Trek fan film. The Language Creation Society has challenged Paramount’s claim. Their attorney wrote in a brief that copyrighting a language is a claim over artistic expression.
“To claim copyright in a language is to claim ownership over all possible thoughts and artistic expression that might employ that language,” the attorneys wrote in the brief. “If not ownership, such a claim at least provides some support for the idea that the copyright owner could, at some point, simply pull the plug on any future development in the language.”
Paramount’s response was that of confusion. Their attorneys wondered how a fictitious language could be public domain.
“This argument is absurd since a language is only useful if it can be used to communicate with people, and there are no Klingons with whom to communicate,” stated a plaintiffs’ brief authored by David Grossman at Loeb & Loeb. “The Klingon language is wholly fictitious, original and copyrightable, and Defendants’ incorporation of that language in their works will be part of the Court’s eventual substantial similarity analysis. Defendants’ use of the Klingon language in their works is simply further evidence of their infringement of Plaintiffs’ characters, since speaking this fictitious language is an aspect of their characters.”
It’s an interesting, strange debate. Language is universal and shouldn’t be the subject of copyright. But, Klingon language seems to be whole different ballpark. While it may be somewhat universal now, that’s due to the popularity of Star Trek, the property it was created for. I’m not sure how you can argue it isn’t Paramount’s property, although it’s plenty entertaining to watch it try to be done.
We say Yido’ (good luck in Klingon) to The Language Creation Society. They’re going to need it.